Ella: Please join me in welcoming Regency author Regan Walker who is here to promote the second book in her Agents of the Crown series, Against the Wind…
Regan nudges Ella, and says in a whisper, “You’re supposed to interview the dowager duchess, Muriel, Lady Claremont, not me.”
Ella: Drat, sorry. It’s been that kind of week. Umm,<turns to her ladyship and smiles> Lady Claremont, I’m so very pleased to welcome you to my blog.
Lady Claremont inclines head: “I’m delighted to be with you, my dear. So lovely of you to invite me.”
Ella: I was my pleasure. Ms. Walker tells me you make an appearance in both her books, Racing with the Wind and Against the Wind. Is this the first time you’ve played a literary role?
Lady Claremont: “Ms.? I believe you meant to say Mrs. Walker?
Ella: Oh, yes, of course. Please go on.
Lady Claremont: Actually, I believe Mrs. Walker made possible my introduction to that very attractive knight, Sir Martin Powell, in her novel Against the Wind. But my annual ball was featured in Racing With The Wind. It’s an important event of the Season, you know. And then there were the two short stories, The Shamrock & The Rose and The Holly & The Thistle which feature my favorite pastime, matchmaking.”
Ella: Oh, I wasn’t aware.
[the dowager duchess raises her quizzing glass and peers at Ella wondering if she’s been in the country for too long]
Ella mumbles: I really need to get out more. She smiles: Well then, what do you like most about the stories you’ve been involved in?
Lady Claremont: “Really, dear, you must know it is the wonderful people I meet. We have such fun. And I am rather fond of those handsome men Mrs. Walker keeps brining to my balls and to parties in my home. She has such good taste in gentlemen.”
Ella: I think we can all appreciate a well-looking man. I understand that you have a penchant for interesting people. What draws you to those who are a bit different from the rest of Polite Society?
Lady Claremont: “Well, my dear. At my age one has to consider how short life is, and interesting people add such richness to one’s existence, don’t you think? <Ella nods> Why spend time with the ordinary when the mischievous, winsome and even difficult often have so much to commend them? Of course, the rogues must have the right woman and be properly reformed.”
Ella: I absolutely agree, my lady. Ms er, Mrs. Walker tells me you have some ability as a matchmaker. What makes you decide that two people should come together, and how do you go about, er, convincing them.
Lady Claremont: I always begin with thoughts of the late earl. We had such a warm, wonderful marriage. And I dare say he was quite the rogue. When I see a man that reminds me of my husband I am instantly intrigued. I do not like my female acquaintances to be alone in the world. So when Mrs. Walker presents me with a handsome rogue, a diamond in the rough so to speak, and I see great character within his soul, I am always tempted to make a good match. Sometimes one must assist fate and I’ve had to use my influence at times, but in the end I am pleased with my nudging.”
Ella: I agree. There are many times when a couple requires the assistance of others to help them realize how they feel about each other. Can you tell us what role you played in bringing together Martin and Katherine?
Lady Claremont: “Sadly, this is not one I can claim for my own, except I will note that Sir Martin was reunited with the Lady Egerton at my ball. I understand Sir Martin rescued the lovely redhead from a cur who was in pursuit of her with evil design. But, of course, I only discovered this later. The Marquess of Ormond, a very dear friend, informed me of the events once the couple were wed.”
Ella: Very interesting. Thank you so much for allowing me to interview you.
Lady Claremont: “Anytime, my dear. Anytime! Mrs. Walker informs me that I shall be a guest at William and Lady Stephens home in Scotland at Christmas in a few years so perhaps I will see you there.”
Ella: Yes, you will. I am so looking forward to it. Thank you again for visiting with me today.
Now, what you’ve all been waiting for, the blurb and an excerpt of Against the Wind.
A night in London’s most exclusive bordello. Agent of the Crown Sir Martin Powell would not normally indulge, but the end of his time spying against Napoleon deserves a victory celebration. Yet, such pleasure will not come cheap. The auburn-haired courtesan he calls “Kitten” is in truth Katherine, Lady Egerton, a dowager baroness and the daughter of an earl as elusive as she is alluring. She flees a fate worse than death. But Martin has known darkness, too, and he alone can touch her heart–as she has touched his. To the English Midlands they will steal, into the rising winds of revolution.
Excerpt of Against The Wind:
London, April 1817
She is dead.
Katherine, Lady Egerton, stared at the still form lying on the bed. Beloved sister, friend of the heart…Anne was gone. One minute she was struggling for breath, the next she lay silent and still. The only person in the world Kit loved more than life had left her.
They are all gone now. The sudden solitude tore at her heart.
Kit smiled sadly, gazing through eyes filled with tears at the frail body lying before her. The brown mouse. Anne’s name for herself. Delicate even as a child, she had not long survived her marriage to the cruel Earl of Rutledge. Kit knelt at her sister’s bedside, assailed by grief and guilt, and reached for Anne’s hand. Could she have done more to save her sister from the dread disease? Could she have done more to protect Anne from the heartless man who was her husband?
Pale in death, Anne was still beautiful. Kit had often sketched that heart-shaped face. Not a mouse, but a much-loved sister with a kind, unselfish heart.
Kit had seen the end coming in the last few months, months through which she’d faithfully cared for Anne. The coughs that wracked her sister’s slight frame had grown worse as Anne seemed to fade before Kit’s eyes. Kit knew she was losing her even as she willed that weak body to heal. The physician said he could do nothing; each time he left shaking his head and telling Kit to make “the poor girl” comfortable as best she could. Kit had tried to save Anne, doing the only thing she knew by giving her syrup of horehound and honey. But such a small measure was not enough. Then, too, her sister had seemed to welcome death.
Suddenly, the room grew cold. Kit felt his presence, a looming evil behind her. She took a deep breath and summoned her strength.
“Leave her and come to me.” Rutledge’s tone was harsh and demanding. Kit had no need to see him to know his face would be twisted in an odious scowl, his lips drawn taut. “It is time.”
“I must see to my sister.”
“You need do nothing. I have arranged for the burial. Come away now.”
Kit knew what he wanted, for she had seen the lust in his dark eyes. What at first had been sideways glances became leers and unwanted touches. Though she’d lived in his home since the death of her husband the baron, Kit had avoided the earl, rarely leaving her sister’s bedside. She had been thinking of a way to escape, but her exhaustion in caring for Anne these last days left those plans incomplete. With meager funds, her options were few.
When she failed to rise at the earl’s direction, his hand roughly gripped her shoulder. She stiffened at the pain of his fingers digging into her skin.
“I have waited long for you, Katherine, enduring that mockery of a marriage to your sister while all the while it was you I wanted, you I was promised. Now I shall have what is mine.”
“No!” She rose swiftly, stepping back as she turned to face him. Revulsion rose in her throat. What did he mean by those words? She never had been promised to him!
His smirk transfigured what many thought of as a handsome face. Hadn’t Anne at first been fooled by his aristocratic features and wavy brown hair? One had only to look closely to see his nature reflected in those thin lips and narrow eyes now focused on Kit. A deep furrow between his brows bore witness to his long having insisted upon having his way. When Kit sketched him, it had been as an attacking hawk.
“What will you do?” he asked smugly. “Where will you go, m’dear? You are alone and without funds. I am the one who has provided food and shelter for both you and your weak sister, though I wanted only you. You are mine, Katherine, and I will have you.”
Terror seized her. Cornered, her eyes darted about like an animal snared in a trap. His tall figure blocked the door to the corridor; the only way out led through his adjacent bedchamber. She fled toward it.
She hastened into the room as he stalked after her, knowing she had but seconds, and her eyes searched for a weapon, something to hold him at bay. At the side of the fireplace were tools, short bars of iron that could fend off a man. But could she reach them in time?
He lunged for her just as she ran toward the fireplace. His body collided with hers, and she fell upon the wooden floor with a thud. Pain shot through her hip. His body crashed down upon hers, forcing the air from her lungs. She gasped a breath just as his mouth crushed her lips, ruthlessly claiming dominance.
Tearing away, she pushed against his shoulders with all her might, but his greater strength held her pinned to the floor. His hand gripped one breast and squeezed. She winced at the pain, but that was quickly forgotten the moment a greater terror seized her: His aroused flesh pressed into her belly.
Violently she struggled, but to no avail. His wet lips slid down her throat to her heaving chest as his fingers gripped the top of her gown and yanked at the silk. Kit heard the fabric tear as he ripped her gown and the top of her chemise, and she felt the cool air on her naked breasts. Frantic, she mustered strength she did not know she had. Twisting in his grasp, she reached for the iron poker now a mere foot away.
His mouth latched onto her breast where he voraciously sucked a nipple. Lost in his lust, he did not see her grasp the length of iron, raise it above him and bring it crashing down on his head. Stunned by the blow, he raised up, his eyes glazed. Kit let the bar fall again, this time with greater force. Blood spattered her chest and face as his body went limp. He slumped atop her.
Kit’s heart pounded in her chest like a bird’s wing beating against a cage. Frantically she shoved his face from her breast and rolled his body to the floor.
Unsteady at first, her breath coming in pants, Kit rose and looked down at the crumpled form lying before her, every nerve on edge as she gazed into that evil face, now deathly pale. Blood oozed from a gash in the earl’s left temple. There was no sign of life, no movement.
I have killed him!
Fear choked off her breath as she wiped blood from her face with a sleeve, and with one last look toward her sister’s bedchamber she raced from the room. Footsteps sounded down the hall. Alarmed at the prospect of encountering one of the earl’s servants who would summon a constable, Kit knew she must find a place to hide, and there was nowhere to hide in the house. Quietly stealing into her bedchamber, she grabbed her cloak and reticule, stuffing inside it the one piece of her jewelry that could be sold to sustain her, and fled the dwelling.
Out on the street, she paused to draw her cloak tightly around her, desperate to cover her torn and bloody gown. Where could she go? Who would shelter her in the state she was in, given the deed she had done?
Only one name came to her.
As a child Regan Walker loved to write stories, particularly about adventure-loving girls, but by the time she got to college more serious pursuits took priority. One of her professors thought her suited to the profession of law, and Regan realized it would be better to be a hammer than a nail. Years of serving clients in private practice and several stints in high levels of government gave her a love of international travel and a feel for the demands of the “Crown” on its subjects. Hence her romance novels often involve a demanding Prince Regent who thinks of his subjects as his private talent pool.
Regan lives in San Diego with her golden retriever, Link, whom she says inspires her every day to relax and smell the roses.